Lego facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
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Lego Duplo

Lego, also called LEGO, is a type of building toy created and made by the Lego Group, a company in Denmark. "Lego Bricks" are colorful plastic building blocks that can be joined together easily. Lego bricks are joined together by studs on the top, and holes in the bottom of the brick commonly known as the stud-and-tube connection. LEGO is the most popular building toy in the world.

The Lego company was started by Ole Kirk Christiansen a Danish toy maker in 1935. Christiansen made wooden toys for children. He made and sold his first plastic Lego sets in the 1940s. Since then, Lego toys have become very popular and are known and loved by people around the world kids and adults alike.

Lego bricks come in many shapes and sizes. There are wheels, car screens, and plants. Lego bricks can be joined together in many ways. Vehicles, buildings and even robots can all be built with Lego bricks.

Almost all the bricks from Lego sets can fit together. New bricks made today can fit with old bricks made years ago. The bricks can join together no matter which set they come from. Lego has become so popular that people sometimes use the word "Lego" to talk about any sort of building blocks. There are millions of LEGO fans and conventions around the world

History

Lego Color Bricks
Lego bricks
2 duplo lego bricks
Two Lego Duplo bricks with a standard brick for comparison

The Lego Group began in the workshop of Ole Kirk Christiansen (1891–1958), a carpenter from Billund, Denmark, who began making wooden toys in 1932. In 1934, his company came to be called "Lego", derived from the Danish phrase leg godt, which means "play well". In 1947, Lego expanded to begin producing plastic toys. In 1949 Lego began producing, among other new products, an early version of the now familiar interlocking bricks, calling them "Automatic Binding Bricks". These bricks were based in part on the Kiddicraft Self-Locking Bricks, which were patented in the United Kingdom in 1939 and released in 1947. Lego modified the design of the Kiddicraft brick after examining a sample that they received from the supplier of an injection-molding machine that Lego purchased. The bricks, originally manufactured from cellulose acetate, were a development of the traditional stackable wooden blocks of the time.

The Lego Group's motto is det bedste er ikke for godt which means roughly "only the best is the best" (more literally "the best is never too good"). This motto, which is still used today, was created by Christiansen to encourage his employees never to skimp on quality, a value he believed in strongly. By 1951 plastic toys accounted for half of the Lego company's output, even though the Danish trade magazine Legetøjs-Tidende ("Toy-Times"), visiting the Lego factory in Billund in the early 1950s, felt that plastic would never be able to replace traditional wooden toys. Although a common sentiment, Lego toys seem to have become a significant exception to the dislike of plastic in children's toys, due in part to the high standards set by Ole Kirk.

By 1954, Christiansen's son, Godtfred, had become the junior managing director of the Lego Group. It was his conversation with an overseas buyer that led to the idea of a toy system. Godtfred saw the immense potential in Lego bricks to become a system for creative play, but the bricks still had some problems from a technical standpoint: their locking ability was limited and they were not versatile. In 1958, the modern brick design was developed; it took five years to find the right material for it, ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) polymer. The modern Lego brick design was patented on 28 January 1958.

LEGO Building At KSC
Lego building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center

The Lego Group's Duplo product line was introduced in 1969 and is a range of simple blocks whose lengths measure twice the width, height and depth of standard Lego blocks and are aimed towards younger children.

In 1978, Lego produced the first minifigures, which have since become a staple in most sets.

In May 2011, Space Shuttle Endeavour mission STS-134 brought 13 Lego kits to the International Space Station, where astronauts built models to see how they would react in microgravity, as a part of the Lego Bricks in Space program.

In May 2013, the largest model ever created was displayed in New York City and was made of over 5 million bricks; a 1:1 scale model of an X-wing fighter. Other records include a 112-foot (34 m) tower and a 4 km (2.5 mi) railway.

In February 2015, Lego replaced Ferrari as the "world's most powerful brand."

In popular culture

Lego's popularity is demonstrated by its wide representation and usage in many forms of cultural works, including books, films and art work. It has even been used in the classroom as a teaching tool. In the US, Lego Education North America is a joint venture between Pitsco, Inc. and the educational division of the Lego Group.

In 1998, Lego bricks were one of the original inductees into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong in Rochester, New York.

Design

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A model of Trafalgar Square, London, in Legoland Windsor

Lego pieces of all varieties constitute a universal system. Despite variation in the design and the purposes of individual pieces over the years, each piece remains compatible in some way with existing pieces. Lego bricks from 1958 still interlock with those made in the current time, and Lego sets for young children are compatible with those made for teenagers. Six bricks of 2 × 4 studs can be combined in 915,103,765 ways.

Each Lego piece must be manufactured to an exacting degree of precision. When two pieces are engaged they must fit firmly, yet be easily disassembled. The machines that manufacture Lego bricks have tolerances as small as 10 micrometres.

Lego dimensions
Dimensions of some standard Lego bricks and plates

Primary concept and development work takes place at the Billund headquarters, where the company employs approximately 120 designers. The company also has smaller design offices in the UK, Spain, Germany, and Japan which are tasked with developing products aimed specifically at these markets. The average development period for a new product is around twelve months, split into three stages. The first stage is to identify market trends and developments, including contact by the designers directly with the market; some are stationed in toy shops close to holidays, while others interview children. The second stage is the design and development of the product based upon the results of the first stage. As of September 2008 the design teams use 3D modeling software to generate CAD drawings from initial design sketches. The designs are then prototyped using an in-house stereolithography machine. These prototypes are presented to the entire project team for comment and for testing by parents and children during the "validation" process. Designs may then be altered in accordance with the results from the focus groups. Virtual models of completed Lego products are built concurrently with the writing of the user instructions. Completed CAD models are also used in the wider organisation, for marketing and packaging.

Lego Digital Designer is an official piece of Lego software for Mac OS X and Windows which allows users to create their own digital Lego designs. The program once allowed customers to order their custom designs with a service to ship physical models from Digital Designer to consumers; the service ended in 2012.

Manufacturing

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The Lego factory in Kladno, Czech Republic
Arburg Lego
Lego injection moulding machines, made by the German company Arburg
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A Lego mould, showing the moulded bricks and the channels through which the plastic enters the mould at the sprue, runners and gates in Jiaxing, China

Since 1963, Lego pieces have been manufactured from a strong, resilient plastic known as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). As of September 2008, Lego engineers use the NX CAD/CAM/CAE PLM software suite to model the elements. The software allows the parts to be optimized by way of mould flow and stress analysis. Prototype moulds are sometimes built before the design is committed to mass production. The ABS plastic is heated to 232 °C (450 °F) until it reaches a dough-like consistency. It is then injected into the moulds at pressures between 25 and 150 tonnes, and takes approximately 15 seconds to cool. The moulds are permitted a tolerance of up to twenty micrometres, to ensure the bricks remain connected. Human inspectors check the output of the moulds, to eliminate significant variations in colour or thickness. According to the Lego Group, about eighteen bricks out of every million fail to meet the standard required. Lego factories recycle all but about 1 percent of their plastic waste from the manufacturing process. If the plastic cannot be re-used in Lego bricks, it is processed and sold on to industries that can make use of it.

Manufacturing of Lego bricks occurs at several locations around the world. Moulding is done in Billund; Nyíregyháza, Hungary; Monterrey, Mexico and most recently in Jiaxing, China. Brick decorations and packaging are done at plants in Denmark, Hungary, Mexico and Kladno in the Czech Republic. The Lego Group estimates that in five decades it has produced 400 billion Lego blocks. Annual production of Lego bricks averages approximately 36 billion, or about 1140 elements per second. According to an article in BusinessWeek in 2006, Lego could be considered the world's No. 1 tire manufacturer; the factory produces about 306 million small rubber tires a year. The claim was reiterated in 2012.

In December 2012, the BBC's More or Less radio program asked the Open University's engineering department to determine "how many Lego bricks, stacked one on top of the other, it would take for the weight to destroy the bottom brick?" Using a hydraulic testing machine, the engineering department determined the average maximum force a 2×2 Lego brick can stand is 4,240 newtons; since an average 2×2 Lego brick has a mass of 1.152 grams (0.0406 oz), according to their calculations it would take a stack of 375,000 bricks to cause the bottom brick to collapse, which represents a stack 3,591 metres (11,781 ft) in height.

Private tests have shown several thousand assembly-disassembly cycles before the bricks begin to wear out, although Lego tests show fewer cycles.

Lego set themes

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A Lego set released in 2013, "Gold Getaway", based on the Lego Castle theme
Lego Sets In Store Leicester Square London United Kingdom
Lego sets of the Lego City theme

Since the 1950s, the Lego Group has released thousands of sets with a variety of themes, including space, robots, pirates, trains, Vikings, castle, dinosaurs, undersea exploration, and wild west. Some of the classic themes that continue to the present day include Lego City (a line of sets depicting city life introduced in 1973) and Lego Technic (a line aimed at emulating complex machinery, introduced in 1977).

Over the years, Lego has licensed themes from numerous cartoon and film franchises and even some from video games. These include Batman, Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Minecraft. Although some of the licensed themes, Lego Star Wars and Lego Indiana Jones, had highly successful sales, Lego has expressed a desire to rely more upon their own characters and classic themes, and less upon licensed themes related to movie releases.

For the 2012 Summer Olympics in London Lego released a special Lego Minifigures serie and for the 2016 Summer Olympics and 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio, Lego released a kit with the Olympic and Paralympic mascots Vinicius and Tom.

One of the largest Lego sets commercially produced was a minifig-scaled edition of the Star Wars Millennium Falcon. Designed by Jens Kronvold Fredericksen, it was released in 2007 and contained 5,195 pieces. It was surpassed by a 5,922-piece Taj Mahal. A redesigned Millenium Falcon recently retook the top spot in 2017 with 7,541 pieces.

Robotics themes

Lego also initiated a robotics line of toys called 'Mindstorms' in 1999, and has continued to expand and update this range ever since. The roots of the product originate from a programmable brick developed at the MIT Media Lab, and the name is taken from a paper by Seymour Papert, a computer scientist and educator who developed the educational theory of constructionism, and whose research was at times funded by the Lego Group.

The programmable Lego brick which is at the heart of these robotics sets has undergone several updates and redesigns, with the latest being called the 'EV3' brick, being sold under the name of Lego Mindstorms EV3. The set includes sensors that detect touch, light, sound and ultrasonic waves, with several others being sold separately, including an RFID reader.

The intelligent brick can be programmed using official software available for Windows and Mac computers, and is downloaded onto the brick via Bluetooth or a USB cable. There are also several unofficial programs and compatible programming languages that have been made to work with the brick, and many books have been written to support this community.

There are several robotics competitions which use the Lego robotics sets. The earliest is Botball, a national U.S. middle- and high-school competition stemming from the MIT 6.270 Lego robotics tournament. Other Lego robotics competitions include Junior FIRST LEGO League (Jr.FLL) for students ages 6–9 and FIRST Lego League (FLL) for students ages 9–16 (age 9–14 in the United States, Canada, and Mexico). Jr.FLL and FLL offer real-world engineering challenges to participants. FLL uses Lego-based robots to complete tasks. Jr.FLL participants build models out of Lego elements. In its 2010 season, there were 16,070 FLL teams in over 55 countries. In its 2010 season, there were 2,147 Jr.FLL teams with 12,882 total student participants in the United States and Canada. The international RoboCup Junior football competition involves extensive use of Lego Mindstorms equipment which is often pushed to its extreme limits.

The capabilities of the Mindstorms range have now been harnessed for use in Iko Creative Prosthetic System, a prosthetic limbs system designed for children. Designs for these Lego prosthetics allow everything from mechanical diggers to laser-firing spaceships to be screwed on to the end of a child's limb. Iko is the work of the Chicago-based Colombian designer Carlos Arturo Torres, and is a modular system that allows children to customise their own prosthetics with the ease of clicking together plastic bricks. Designed with Lego's Future Lab, the Danish toy company's experimental research department, and Cirec, a Colombian foundation for physical rehabilitation, the modular prosthetic incorporates myoelectric sensors that register the activity of the muscle in the stump and send a signal to control movement in the attachment. A processing unit in the body of the prosthetic contains an engine compatible with Lego Mindstorms, the company's robotics line, which lets the wearer build an extensive range of customised, programmable limbs.

Clones of Lego

The definitive shape of the Lego bricks, with the inner tubes, was patented by the Lego Group in 1958. Several competitors have attempted to take advantage of Lego's popularity by producing blocks of similar dimensions, and advertising them as being compatible with Lego bricks. In 2002, Lego sued the CoCo Toy Company in Beijing for copyright infringement over its "Coko bricks" product. CoCo was ordered to cease manufacture of the products, publish a formal apology and pay damages. Lego sued the English company Best-Lock Construction Toys in German courts in 2004 and 2009; the Federal Patent Court of Germany denied Lego trademark protection for the shape of its bricks for the latter case. In 2005, the Lego Company sued Canadian company Mega Bloks for trademark violation, but the Supreme Court of Canada upheld Mega Bloks' rights to sell their product. In 2010, the European Court of Justice ruled that the eight-peg design of the original Lego brick "merely performs a technical function [and] cannot be registered as a trademark."

Related services

Official website

First launched in 1996, the Lego website has developed over the years, and provides many extra services beyond an online store and a product catalogue. There are also moderated message boards that were founded in 2001. The site also includes instruction booklets for all Lego sets dating back to 2002.

My Lego Network is a social networking site that involves items, blueprints, ranks, badges which are earned for completing certain tasks, trading and trophies called masterpieces which allow users to progress to go to the next rank. The website has a built in inbox which allows users to send pre written messages to one another. The Lego Network includes automated non-player characters within called "Networkers", who are able to do things which normal users cannot do, sending custom messages, and selling masterpieces and blueprints. The site also has modules which are set up on the user's page that give the user items, or that display picture compositions. Before My Lego Network, there were Lego Club Pages, which essentially held the same purpose, although the design lacked complex interaction.

Theme parks

Merlin Entertainments operates seven Legoland amusement parks, the original in Billund, Denmark, the second in Windsor, England, the third in Günzburg, Germany, the fourth in Carlsbad, California, the fifth in Winter Haven, Florida, the sixth in Nusajaya, Malaysia and the seventh in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. and the eighth in Shanghai, Peoples of Republic of China. On 13 July 2005, the control of 70% of the Legoland parks was sold for $460 million to the Blackstone Group of New York while the remaining 30% is still held by Lego Group. There are also eight Legoland Discovery Centres, two in Germany, four in the United States, one in Japan and one in the United Kingdom. Two Legoland Discovery Centres opened in 2013: one at the Westchester Ridge Hill shopping complex in Yonkers, NY and one at the Vaughan Mills in Vaughan, Ontario, Canada. Another has opened at the Meadowlands complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey in 2014.

LEGO Video Games

Many LEGO video games are being created for different video game systems. LEGO video games usually come from LEGO themes, such as LEGO Star Wars and Lego Indiana Jones. Lego Star Wars is a famous theme and it has three video games. A new game Harry Potter is a video game which came out before the new Harry Potter theme but made after the old Harry Potter. LEGO Star Wars 1 and 2 are some of the best selling video games and are about to get a new version of LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars.

In LEGO Clone Wars, you can play as most of your favorite characters, like Rex, Yoda, Cody, and a lot of others. Also, you can face fearsome monsters like the Rancor.The newest game from LEGO is LEGO Universe, a massively multi-player online game. new games for the movie will be loaded with legos.

There has been a Lego game that is very popular Lego Dimensions. The starter pack is expensive but the game is very popular. The fun packs are the cheapest pack to extend the game. The level and team packs are the expensive packs.The first ever lego video game was published in 2001

Television and movies

A Lego Cartoon Network show Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu was aired from 2011 until the show's end in 2012. A second Cartoon Network Lego show aired in 2013. A 2014 Lego movie (The Lego Movie) stars Chris Pratt, Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell, and Liam Neeson. The movie was released on February 7, 2014.

Images for kids

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Lego Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.